nederlands
français
english
deutsch

Lodewijk Mortelmans 1868-1952

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Lodewijk Mortelmans 
Algemene Muziek Encyclopedie - (Complete Music Encyclopedy)

Lodewijk Mortelmans,
Antwerpen º 05.02.1868 - † 24.06.2952 - Belgian composer and music teacher

Lodewijk's father, Karel Mortelmans, was printer but also a music lover and member of music associations. His older brother Frans became an art painter.

The musical talent of Lodewijk appeared by accident, when, because of his brother a piano came in the house, which became irrestible for our future composer. At the age of 12, he became choir boy at the Predikherenkerk and played percussions at the Fr. Opera in Antwerpen.

He attended the Flemish Music School (Vlaamse Muziekschool) and was trained by Jan Blockx (harmony and instrumentation), Tilborghs (counterpoint and fuge), A. Cornette Sr. (Literature history) and the director Peter Benoit (composition and orchestration).

In 1887 his Lied "De bloemen en de sterren", was a winner at the 'Vlaams-Hollands toernooi' at Roeselare; in 1889 he obtained a second price of Rome; in 1891 his symphony "Germania" was crowned by the "Académie Royale de Belgique" and in 1893 he obtained the First Price of Rome with the cantate "Lady Macbeth".

Next to his musical training Mortelmans showed strong interest in literature and plastic arts. He was a fanatic of Homerus and was a regular museum visitor. This interest can be noticed in his compositions: a constantly improved choice of lyrics and interpretation in his Lieder; the composition of his "Homeric symphony" and the paintical inspiration in "Fra Angelico’s dansende engelen", one of his best schemes for piano.

Hamlin Pianos - Lodewijk MortelmansOn top of that, he was a great nature admirer: he could wander for hours through the 'Kempen and Polders', where later he would withdrawn. Also naturalism was a major source of inspiration for Mortelmans, p.e. in his orchestral works such as "Het wielewaalt en leeuwerkt" and in numerous Lieder, such as "Hoe schoon de morgendauw" or "Meidag".

In 1899 a Mortelmans-festival took place in Antwerpen, where his symphonic compositions were enthusiastically welcomed. From this moment on Mortelmans was considered the leading figure of Antwerp music life, and with Gilson and De Boeck, as a renewer of the Flemisch Music.

In 1901 began the pedagogic career of Mortelmans: he was nominated as teacher of counterpoint and fuge at the Royal Flemish Music Conservatory, function he fulfilled till 1924, when he was promoted director of this institution. Also he was teacher at the Interdiocesane Kerkmuziekschool in Mechelen. As excellent pedagogue Mortelmans shaped during a quarter of a century Antwerps most important composers, and brought them, apart of a thorough knowledge, a deep insight in the aesthetic possibilities of music. Some of his pupils were: Edward Verheyden, Jef van Hoof, Jan Broeckx and Jef Durme.

When founding the Society of New Concerts, in 1903, Mortelmans was appointed artistic leader. He brougth majoy conductors and soloist to the Antwerp audience, and made in particular the romantic german music of Schumann, Brahms, Strauss and Wagner part of local music life. About national music, his attention went mainly to the works of Benoit.

During the war year 1917 he lost his wife, Gabrielle Radoux, and two of his children: Frederik (named Frits) and Guido. His art would carry this burden of household tragedy for many years, p.e. in the "Eligies" for string orchestra.

In 1921 Mortelmans made an artistic trip to the United States of America, where many of his compositions, (mostly his Lieder) were performed and published.

After his retirement in 1933 as director, Mortelmans withdrawn to Waasmunster. In this rural seclusion he kept on composing (mostly pianowork and arrangements of folk Lieder) and with the completion of his manual for counterpoint.

Mortelmans was member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium.

Style

The "lieder" formed historically and esthetically the most important part of Mortelmans’ works, while in this style the composers style-development is better to understand. About 6 periods can be distinguished in Mortelmans’ liedproduction:

1. Romantic realism (1887-1896)

Doorgecomponeerd of strofische tekstanalyse, uiterlijke lyriek in de melodie, expressieve chromatiek in de instrumentale omlijsting. vb. "Te Meie" (Vosmaer); "Ouwemansklacht" (Van Meurs); "Nog gister hield ik u omvangen" (De Mont); "L’ennemi" (Baudelaire).

2. Moodlyrism (1900-1902)

Drieledig ABA of doorgecomponeerd; uitvoerige motievische arbeid; tekstsynthese; innerlijke lyriek in de melodie; wazig akkoordenspel in de instrumentale omlijsting, die een sonore bedding vormt waarin de zangstem rust: "Wierook" (Gezelle); soms polyfone uitwerking van de pianopartij en uitgebreide voor-, tussen- en naspelen: "De Vlaamse Tale" (Gezelle); kleurrijke harmonisatie met talrijke alteraties: "’t Pardoent" (Gezelle); naar conceptie zijn dit stemmingsliederen met doorgaans dromerige, onbestemde atmosfeer: "’k Hoore tuitend hoornen".

3. First eclectic period (1903-1913)

Overgangstijd waar de romantische bewogenheid van de eerste en de sonore verfijning van de tweede periode in elkaar doordringen: "Doornroosje" (De Mont).

4. Period of Introspection (1913)

Naturalisme en jeugdige lyriek maken plaats voor zelfbespiegleing met dramatishce toon en religieuze inhoud. Tekstanalyse, met beklemtonen en herhalen van expressieve woorden; eenvoudige, soms bijna gedeclameerde melodie; harmonisiatie met scherpe appogiaturen; vereenvoudiging in de stemvoering (weinig versieringen), gebonden structuur met herhaling en variatie van melodische kernen; instrumentale omlijsting heeft expressieve, soms dramatische functie: "Heere God" (Gezelle), "Gaat van mij" (Gezelle), "O mocht ik (Gezelle).

5. Second eclectic period (1925-1934)

Afwisselend, leideren die behoren tot het stemmingslyrisme: "Maagdeke Mei" (De Mont), tot het verhalend realisme: "Poverjanneken" (De Mont) of tot de introspeciteve richting: "Schietgebedekens".

6. Period of balance between expression and impression (1933-1952)

Tekstsynthese: beperkte melodie op enkele tonen; gebonden structuur (meestal strofisch); lichte en doorzichtige instrumentale omlijsting met nu eens kleurklanten, dan weer eenvoudig contrapunt: "Hoe zoet is ‘t" (Gezelle); "Moederken" (Gezelle); "Blijde Mei" (Gezelle) en "Perels" (Gezelle).

De liederen van Mortelmans behoren tot de meest verfijnde produkten van het genre, niet enkel in nationaal maar ook in europees opzicht. Samenvattend zijn de hoofdverdiensten van deze leidkunst: volstrekte, psychologische eenheid van tekst en muziek; verfijnd naturalisme of dramatische uitdrukkingskunst; evenwichtig plan met lenige fantasie in de bijzonderheden; sierlijk en rake melodie; ofwel expressieve ofwel schilderende instrumentale omlijsting, die met de zangstem een overbrekelijke eenheid vormt.

Het pianowerk van Mortelmans heeft een liedachtig karakter, met een lange, zelfstandige melodie ("Hartsverheffing"), een begeleidiend karakter van harmonisatie en stemvoering en meestal een intieme toon ("Miniaturen"). Het zijn geen concertstukken met virtuoze inzichten, maar werkjes voor huiselijk musiceren. Kenmerken van de liedkunst, zoals naturalisme ("Het wielewaalt en leeuwerkt") of dramatische introspectie (Adagio religioso) vindt men er in terug. Ook de evolutie van romantishce lyriek naar stemmingskunst doet zich in het pianowerk voor.

Het orkestwerk van Mortelmans is minder origineel. In sommige werken overheerst invloed in structuur en orkestratie van Schumann en Brahms ("Homerische Symfonie"). In andere werken komt Mortelmans tot een persoonlijker palet, lichter en doorzichtiger, op de drempel van het impressionisme("De Mythe der Lente").

De Opera "De Kinderen der Zee" behoort scenisch tot het romatisch realisme, terwijl de partituur schatplichtig is aan Wagner, door chromatiek, melodische sequenzen en zware, compacte orkestratie.

Historical signification

Mortelmans appears as a figure of transition of romantism towards impressionism. Romantic are his early lieder, the mayor part of his work for orchestra, the opera and the early piano works. The romantism is expressed in the lyrical melodies, chromatic harmonisation, compact orchestration and apparent affection.

Inclined towards impressionism are the mature lieder, the late piano work and some elements in some orchestral works. Impressionistically are the meditative mood, the limited melodic dimensions and tension, the blurred instrumentation, and sometimes colourist, sometimes diffuse harmonisation and the tone of apparent affection.

Within the framework of the flemish music and especially with the view on his lied style, Mortelmans has, after the community style of Benoit and the civil realism of Blockx, marked the era of individualistic emotion, the aesthetical artwork, the music-technical refinement and the emotional analysis.

In that perspective his cultural-historical meaning is comparable with those of the "Van Nu en Straksers" for literature.

TOP

lfm logo